'There was nothing I could have done differently' – Perez reveals frustration as Russell clash causes early DNF in Austria
Sergio Perez was furious after his Lap 1 crash with Mercedes’ George Russell forced him to retire early from the Austrian Grand Prix. And the Red Bull driver lamented his second DNF in three races, which has seen him fall behind Charles Leclerc in the drivers’ championship.
Perez started the race in fifth – after making his way up from 13th in the Sprint – and had attempted to make a move on Russell into Turn 4, as he looked to get into the battle for the podium positions. However, as he attempted to make his way round the outside of the Mercedes driver, Perez was clipped into the gravel.
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While he was able to come into the pit lane and could continue, Red Bull chose to retire Perez’s car on Lap 24, with the Mexican down in last place. And reflecting on his short race, Perez said: “It is very frustrating. It is Lap 1 of the race and I think it was important to go without any incidents out there.
“It was a big shame that we had our race ended so early. I had the whole race ahead of me and I thought I had good opportunities coming my way, so it was very painful. We had a lot of damage to the car, and we were going nowhere so we had to retire.”
Of the Lap 1 incident with Russell – who was given a five-second penalty for causing the collision – Perez said he did everything he could do to avoid contact with the British driver, insisting he “gave him enough room”.
“There was nothing, to be honest, I could have done differently – other than going straight into the gravel to make sure he has a free road!” said Perez. “I gave him enough room, he had enough room to do that move and it was up to him really to control the car and I was just clearly ahead. I don’t know what else to say, I was clearly ahead, and I had the position, and it was down to him to really avoid the contact.
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“I gave all the room I could to George on Lap 1, there was enough room for both cars not to crash and unfortunately, we ended up colliding. I don’t know what else I could have done.”
Perez is now 57 points behind team mate Max Verstappen in the drivers’ championship, and with Charles Leclerc’s victory on Sunday – which moved the Monegasque past Perez into the P2 spot in the standings – Ferrari have cut Red Bull’s constructors’ championship lead down to 56 points. But Perez was not too worried, expecting the battle between the two to continue for the rest of the season.
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"Today has hurt us in both championships and hopefully we can recover the ground,” he said. “It has been the same way all season, sometimes we are quicker and sometimes Ferrari are.
"It is still very close but today they were clearly the quicker car. We need to look forward now; the season is long and hopefully we can come back stronger in the coming weekends.”